April 5

Death and Taxes

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Reviews | 4 Comments

This weekend I saw “Sunshine Cleaning.” Do not worry, I wont give anything away. But, as a recommendation, I say wait for the video. Although it was made by the same folks that made “Little Miss Sunshine” it is just not as funny.
This isn’t to say it isn’t a good movie; it is pretty good, especially with interpretation. But I see no reason to rush out and see it in the theater. It will be out on video soon enough.

In this blog I’d like to discuss the movie in a general way, and its relation to therapy.
The movie is about death. If you haven’t read the synopsis, it’s about two sisters with a difficult relationship who start up a business cleaning up crime scenes when the police are done. There’s a little more about death in it, but I don’t want to give too much away.

In existential theory a predominant belief is that the fear of death underlies most of our psychological issues. And I have a firm belief we spend a great deal of time attempting to ignore our transient nature in this reality. We keep ourselves super busy, often believing we will be happy in the future. “I’ll be happy when I am married,” “I’ll enjoy life when I’m retired,” are just a couple of examples of things I’ve heard regarding minimal contentment now and believing a future event will make someone happy. We often act as if we will never die, not enjoying life in the moment.

I have a tattoo which reads “Memento Mori.” It is Latin for remember your death. When I have told people about it I often hear “that is morbid!” I disagree. I try to keep in mind my time is limited, as is all of ours, and I try to live my life to the fullest. But the statement of others supports my belief that most folks want to ignore death, especially their own. In therapy it is my goal that others will embrace their lives. This often requires facing their death. For a great book about facing your personal fear of death, see Yalom’s “Staring at the Sun”.

To me “Sunshine Cleaning” is a symbol for this ignoring of death. The main characters have not fully grieved the losses in their life, instead doing what they felt the death meant, taking care of the responsibility. And their job is to erase the physical evidence of the death from their clients’ homes or businesses.

For tax advice, please see an accountant.

I’m interested in any comments, especially from those that have seen the movie. If you leave a comment and have seen the movie, let me know if you read this before or after in your comment please.


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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 5th, 2009 at 12:00 AM and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Death and Taxes”

  1. Graciela on April 6th, 2009 at 9:36 PM

    The first time I had to deal with the death of a loved one was when I was about 6 or 7 years old and my grandfather died. I was told he wouldn’t come back and I remember crying inconsolably because I couldn’t understand it. The movie reminded me of that moment of pain and grief when you realize that person will never be physically in this world anymore.
    As an adult and as I get older, it seems like death happens more frequently around you and you start realizing that you can just go in any given moment.
    A few years ago I had a dream in which I saw myself dying from a car accident at the age of 54. If that were the case I will have a little over a decade left. This dream has been my wake up call.
    I always saw myself getting older and seeing my kids graduating, getting married and making me a grandmother. After that dream I take my days as they come. I take the time to enjoy nature, my surroundings and the company of my loved ones. I tried not to worry about the unknown and what the future holds for me. I also try to teach my children good values and morals, but more importantly to show them my love every day as if it was the last one.

  2. William Berry on April 6th, 2009 at 10:08 PM

    I believe that is exactly what existential therapists are talking about, realizing the transient nature of life and embracing it. Good for you.

  3. Lucy Rodriguez on April 7th, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    Prof. Berry, willyyy, william or Mr. Berry? haha I took your Psychology of Drug use and abuse class the first semester you started teaching and it was today that i found out you had a blog, which by the way is awesome. I just read some of your articles and let me just say that is great to keep learning from someone i admire and actually know and have seen him teach. I decided to comment on this article because i just went through my grandpa’s death a week ago and i think and feel that what you just wrote is exactly what i decided to learn from this experience. My granfather lived a great life but this past year he suffered a lot, not from being sick but because his body and mind slowly but surely was ready to die and the sad part is that he was conscious about it ’till the last month where he just agonized and died.
    Anyways, my point here is that although i was pretty sad to see him die i remember him with happiness and admiration because he really took advantage of every minute of his life. When he retired he kept learning languages, reading dictionaries and translators in our house to “keep his mind working” as he liked to say. He acknowledge the fact that someday he was going to seized existing, but that didn’t stop him from growing as a person, as a working brain who was always open to teach and learn from others because, after all, that’s big part of why we’re here for.
    P.S: Love the fact that i could keep in touch with you and your ways of reasoning. It’s always good to have your thoughts on life from people you look up to. ;)

  4. William Berry on April 7th, 2009 at 8:23 PM

    Of course I remember you Lucy, you were in the first class I taught, and were always negotiating for something more, slides emailed, better grades, easier test questions, etc. lol. It paid off for those that followed.
    Thank you for your comment, compliments, and what can I say, I truly feel honored.
    In regard to your grandfather’s death, I am glad you are taking something positive from the experience. And it seems the way he lived his life was an outstanding example to all.

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